Interview with Joyce Nga Yu Lee

I was lucky enough to catch up with Mind The Gap’s director Joyce Nga Yu Lee about upcoming show, Mia, touring this year. It recently showed at Leeds’ Live Art Bistro in collaboration with West Yorkshire Playhouse. 

What is Mia about and why should people come along to watch the show?

I believe theatre has the capability to touch hearts and minds and sometimes, when done well, even change them. Mia explores stories about learning disability and parenthood. Stories of learning disabled people’s parenthood are not told enough, and yet there are a lot of myths and preconceptions. I want to share these truthful and hidden stories by using engaging theatrical techniques. Ultimately Mia is about humanity, and it urges audience to think about the kind of world we want to live in.

When I make theatre I always remind myself that my job is to ask questions not to give answers. In Mia I want people to start to consider this issue and make their own judgement. I do not want to advocate any one single point of view. We are all different people and the success of humanity depends on mutual understanding and cooperation. I wanted to tackle the issue head on because we have been hiding away from it for too long, too many misunderstandings and assumptions have been made. It is time we examine the subject with a no nonsense approach and, hopefully, come to a mutual understanding.

What challenges have you faced when directing Mia, and what has been the most rewarding moment?

The subject matter is so sophisticated and hard hitting, I use a lot of theatrical devices to make sure it is accessible while not simplistic, absorbing and entertaining while not dismissive of the weight of the issue – this was probably the biggest challenge. Obviously, seeing the production come together as I had imagined it was probably the most rewarding moment. Mia is good entertainment with a critical edge. When you leave the theatre, I hope you will feel entertained yet a bit more human and energised for action.

Have you directed a Mind The Gap production before? It’s a particularly inspirational theatre company.

Yes, Mind the Gap is a great company to work for! The company has been creating work since 1988 and I’m pleased to say that we’re one of Europe’s leading learning disability theatre companies. I’ve been with the company almost ten years now and have either directed or assistant directed quite a bit of Mind the Gap’s work during that time. Mind the Gap is all about creating an arts sector where there is equal opportunity for performers with learning disabilities, creating work for local, national and international audiences. The type of work we produce includes touring theatre, site sensitive productions, forum theatre and more recently street theatre. We make work alongside people with learning disabilities that excites, surprises and challenges audiences.

Out of all the productions you have directed, which has been your favourite?

My best production so far has to be Mia. I’ve directed some exciting large-scale outdoor spectacles that were really high up on my list, but Mia has got an edge. If Mia was a cake it would be something from a French patisserie. Detailed, petite, delicate but packed full of bold flavours.

Don’t miss your chance to see Mia: Daughters of Fortune.

Photograph credited to Maria Spadafora.

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